Flowers That Remember

I walked into our local florist today. Exactly ten years after one sad day, a month and five days since my last post, and ten minutes after sitting alone in a restaurant eating breakfast … I entered into an array of color. Expecting to buy a small spray of forget-me-nots, they had none. My vase of expectation remained empty as I left, but hope is never defeated.

It will take a few hours to re-visit the small blue flowers because I must attend to my business. It is a difficult day. Ten years ago, mom died from cancer. She is one of two small – never to be forgotten – flowers I expected to have close to me now. The other? A recognition of the shrinking brain known as dementia. Forget-me-nots are the symbol of this slow moving disease that slowly peels away reason and sense from those we love.

Within the beautiful arrangement that is my life now, I have a recognition of a life gone from cancer and a life present with dementia. Two wonderful flowers in a vase on my mantle today.

There’s no denying a reality. What is … is. Conversations repeated, forgotten sentences, anger over recognized loss – yet a small understanding, still, of a diagnosis in the early stage … all of this in a bouquet known as dementia. A reality so many experience daily. I am understanding this path with every inhaled scent and sensibility I can gather as two of us walk together. We are pals. We are stemmed together, yet trying to maintain our independence at the same time.

It is difficult. Especially today, it is hard.

Does he remember that day ten years ago? Is it meaningful? Is a forget-her-not in there somewhere? I believe it is … and he should water that memory as best he can.

I have my sad – and wonderful memories – of that day. I always say, “When mom died, it was the best day of my life. I started a new journey, … a new me. She was exceptional. A fantastic mom. That said, I had to grow up. My biggest supporter (and crutch) was gone.” I began anew. The past ten years would not have been what they were had mom not died.

Do I miss her? ABSOLUTELY!! Do I miss the “old” me? No.

So, here life is. Two forget-me-nots – not in a physical vase yet. No picture to show here … just words. Words one will never hear again and another may hear, but not fully understand.

I am ok with both.

I’m not ok having over a month go by without writing a blog entry, however. It is life, though, and quite acceptable when gaps in a shrinking brain require my attention.

Dementia sucks. Cancer sucks. That said, I do intend on keeping hope alive later today. Forget me not as I press on toward finding small blue flowers of hope.

A Love Story for the Ages

“Round Midnight” by Jerry Blank

I love this. The northwest trombone caught my eye.

Usually, pianist blood coursing through my veins directs my eyes toward keys in arts … in life. Ten years of youth in this case, however, slid a trombone into prominence. My band experiences from 4th grade through college – then playing off and on since – haven’t exited my psyche.

As it should be.

When Jerry Blank’s colorful print splashed across my Facebook page, music entered once again. In the midst of hassled hurries…, rhythm, melody, and harmony – the trilogy of musical marvels – visited my soul.

Art inspires music. Nobody would argue music stimulates brushes upon canvases, either. This love story between the two requires no handsome princes or beautiful damsels. Neither demands outrageous expectations from the other. They live and love co-equally for us.

Depending upon the colors and sounds in our life’s experiences, art and music speak to us. They allow us entrance in to a world of imagination and pleasure. The artists who create fascinations through notes and hues give us golden gateways through which we find new ways forward … different paths, … distinct, unconnected patterns to our old woven tapestries.

Yes, I do love this print. Especially today.

Love of what can be, and acceptance of the love story before us on this Valentine’s Day IS this day

Music adores art. Art cherishes music. It is a love continuing from centuries ago. We have the great fortune to soak up a few decades of rose pedals placed gently under our feet from their nuptials generations past. In this life, every symphony, museum, child’s drawing, or simple sonatina is a marriage of our imagination and art. Whether it be a single stroke of a brush or the caress of a middle-C, … it is the engagement of our mind with an idea, a wonderment, a dream, a new beginning.

A love story, perhaps.

Whatever today means to you, embrace it through art and music if you are able. There is an enchanting, surreal experience waiting for you through forms and fugues, or perhaps statues and songs.

For me, a love story for the ages. For you, a love of your dreams and those who make your world magical. Look for their bright colors and tuneful smiles. Fall back in love with yourself …. your earthly, rhythmic pulse and rainbow of possibilities.

Find your trombone among the many. Look in all directions. Let arts, in general, be the instrument of your love this February 14th. “Round Midnight” it will be a new day, but love will continue forward just like it has for centuries.

… through the heart chambers of music and art, of course.

Hot Chocolate Thoughts

She deserved a nice tip. The young lady behind the beverage bar – nested in a separate room inside Allegheny Creamery and Crepes – mixed up a fine warm chocolate brew for me. This, alone, could have been enough for my asking to break a ten dollar bill. In addition to her perfectly mixed hot refreshment, sips of pleasant conversation accompanied my Saturday evening as I had forty-five minutes to wait.

It was a cold evening in Hollidaysburg. Across Allegheny street, a substitute organist sat on the church bench as I enjoyed a week off. This wasn’t a time to eat a wonderful meal prepared by culinary masters. Due to a meal planned for later in the evening, I didn’t want to over-saturate a growling stomach … just appease the monster within. It was a time to wait for my father to finish up at church. He needed a ride home, … and I needed some alone time to think.

She deserved the tip. I deserved some hot chocolate time. Alone with warmth between my fingers and occasional, sweet conversation across a beverage bar, I sat on a comfortable square stool – deserving a few moments to think.

If you live a life similar to mine, these moments are rare. There is a concession trailer a few miles away – full of supplies, but empty of motivation. Life here has been hectic. If you are a follower of my posts, there have been few this past month. I’m not one whose bucket fills with excuses, so there will be none here. Life … just … is.

This recent hot chocolate moment without staring into a phone screen (except to capture a picture) was worth every second. I was hoping it would be when I Skecher-crunched my way across a dark, snow-covered Allegheny street that Saturday evening. There’s never a bad time to enter Allegheny Creamery either. The service is exceptional, succulent servings on the menu never disappoint, and the owners are very kind and genuine.

Allegheny Creamery and Crepes
505 Allegheny St, Hollidaysburg Pa 16648

So I sat and thought.

I considered the unending, unknown universe while thinking about what has ended in my life recently and “things” I thought I knew. Hot chocolate ponderings I haven’t taken the time to consider over the previous thirty days.

Notions about what I believed should have been normal, but never came to pass, blew through the steam as it wiggled its way up past my nose. Loss -not quite settled into my existence – sat quietly in the not yet consumed white squiggles atop the rich brown chocolate. As I thoughtfully tapped on the comforting cup with each acceptance, the warmth on the side continued to hold hands with great friends and family who’ve always been by my side.

We don’t take enough time to examine, and possibly affirm, the wonderful and not-so good drop-ins that happen to us. Sometimes, we push forward. I did. The past few weeks, life took over.

All of the “stuff” is still here, of course. Part of managing is stopping behind a cup of hot chocolate, alone, and acknowledging the ugliness and beauty of the frayed tapestry that is us at times.

It is said over and over: life isn’t perfect. We shouldn’t want it to be. Reminding ourselves of what is good, and possibly not good, at the moment – at whatever age – can be a sweet transformation, however. Being real with yourself is “what is” … There’s no getting around it.

I have a road to travel. A simple forty-five minutes accompanied by a delightful bartendress, a cup of hot chocolate, and my thoughts won’t solve the larger picture that is my life.

It did tighten up a few threads dangling from a decorative tapestry, though.

And so, she did deserve a nice tip. The moments could have gone by with a less-than stellar beverage and sour chat. As it happened, I was beautified with a perfectly mixed chocolate beverage and a few moments of sweet dialogue.

The Allegheny Creamery and Crepes was a place to be that Saturday night as I waited. I walked in anticipating only few moments out of the cold. A cup of hot chocolate, however, offered something more … time to examine loss, change, and anticipation of good things to come.

If you have a Creamery where you are, sit. If ever in Hollidaysburg, find 505 Allegheny Street. Heather and Kirk will welcome you with open plates and pleasures.

I highly recommend their hot chocolate, by the way, for the gentle reminders it can offer you. I waited and found warmth in a simple cup.


I didn’t know George well enough to post a picture. Knowing his wife through her heartful writings lately and our pianistic connections in the past, I can feel her pain. George is gone.

Pamela writes, publicly, of their love. Leading up that difficult decision to end his life, her words tearfully expressed an inevitable finish to a beautiful story. Today, I read – and watched – why that story had to be told. George was a master lyricist and romantic. He had charm.

Usually, my entries are longer, fuller – a bountiful basket loaded with more paragraphs. Today, however, I am satisfied to let George’s words rest with him and on our hearts. More reading time is not necessary. I was moved by his poem, “A Rainbow In My Rain”.

… and his eternal energy is enough for me today.

All of us can be thankful to meet these unexpected talents. Sometimes, they come disguised as sadness in the lives of others. I am in mourning with Pamela.

As you read his poem, may you extend positive, healing thoughts in Pamela’s direction as she begins a new life without her George.

Beautiful, Reliable Shadows

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Calderwood

The year is winding down. One week to go. Our fifty-one weeks of sun’s memories are setting on 2021’s horizon. Some dark trees still remain in front of us, yet we know that our friendly, warm orb will rise again tomorrow, the next day, and eight days hence … January 1st of the new year.

With it will come our chance to change, to grow, to take those tree’s shadows and shine some light on them. Before then, however, a holiday eve is but hours away.

Family members, if coming into town, have possibly arrived. Presents are wrapped and will be tucked away under glistening trees. Little fingers, anticipatIng the tug across seams aligned with scotch tape after Santa arrives in the early morning, are excited to have school on recess for a bit. All food-stuffs for the days ahead are planned out in the heads of those gifted with culinary skills. Football schedule times, embedded in Christmas day gridiron diehards, are already being discussed.

This is what today is. A holiday eve. There’s an energy – a togetherness – that has no equal to any other time of year. Some may say, “tradition”. I say, a reliable, predicable, wonderful time.

It is all about reliability and “I am with you-ness”. Just like the sun. As one sole typer of words on this day, I see this in my life … and hope in yours as well.

When I saw Kim’s picture posted, growth through the reliance on friends and family came to mind. That “family” isn’t just the mom & dad, sister, brother, etc … All of us belong somewhere – to someone.

Our 2021 story belongs not only to ourselves, but also to a larger family who believes what we do, engages in the same activities, thinks along the same lines … and, shall I say, loves us despite our dark trees. We grew together with them this year, right? It wasn’t easy at times, but we saw our way through because the sun kept rising every day disguised as reliability in friendship.

We relied on them to tie a large knot on the end of our slippy, mistake-ridden rope. Friends met us for a bite to eat when we really didn’t want to discuss a problem or find our way through a maze of issues – but they knew we had to talk.

We can certainly celebrate what we need to this holiday season. For me, I will recognize the sun in my tree’s shadows … which have been the friends and family in my life this year. They are my sun that keeps rising every day.

My hope is 2022 will present many opportunities to change, to grow, to take those tree’s shadows and shine some light on them.

I offer my sincere hope that you find a universe of family and friends who give you the same. There’s no moment when a sun isn’t above to give you guidance. It’s reliable and, in eight days, may you look back into the shadows of 2021 and say, “We did that … together”.

Flowers that Speak

It’s two days before Christmas, yet months removed from Halloween – the favorite holiday of one whose life was taken from us three months ago. A body failed her, but energy, strength, and courage did not. She endured. All the while, she fought through until the forces of “too much” overtook a seemingly impenetrable will. She left us holding her energy. It did not die.

This is Greta. A life force continuing on to this day … two days before Christmas.

… It is day when I have the chance to relax a bit and think through the past 90 days. Ninety days since a final exhale. It was the end of a spectacular life full of, yes, challenges … but exhaustive with extraordinary musical and artistic talent. She had those gifts to share. In the time given, I am glad to have accompanied her along the journey.

After all, it is the time to celebrate gifts.

Christmas poinsettias are strewn about in almost every church. Floral wreaths hang outside on doors brightly lit with festive greens and reds. I hear carolers gifting their music inside local restaurants while patrons drink seasonal, hot beverages through familial conversation. Neighborhoods are bustling with holiday lawn deer and crisp, winter grass reflects yesterday’s winter solstice.

All of this happening outside the very home in which I sit. There will be no tree or presents this year. By choice, the two occupants who reside here – myself among them – have decided to rest. We are a simple holiday event by ourselves. A father and son.

Over to my right are Greta’s flowers from Sunday, October 31st … Halloween. They are resting comfortably on four multi-level round stands. Noonday brilliance always comes in the sun porch windows to glance over the once colorful bouquets. At the insistence of the energy present, we can’t find our way, yet, to discard the stems and memories attached. We see the faded colors and cloudy water. These flowers were for Greta. Three months past her passing and two months since they were placed in her memory, they are hers … still.

It is her gift that keeps on giving. To the two occupants here, a daily chance to remember someone who made a huge difference. Those life-changing moments with her will accompany my experiences going forward … as these flowers eventually fade into a memory. For now, however, my personal season of loss and grieving is holding hands with a season of celebrating. Daily, I look upon four vases holding imperfect, flawed, aging … yes, dead flowers.

This is real energy. Real life. Real, deeply-felt pain with hope attached is the swirl of the grief season. Lifeless flowers speaking words in silence. They gift words to me.

Words from music rehearsals, lunches, and late-night discussions about the stars. Words about food choices, attire wear-abouts, and popular music. IQ arguments, career choices, and Hot Dawg toppings weren’t too far off topic if she wanted to discuss them. Talk show hosts, and certainly game shows, were at the top of the list.

I don’t think we pick what speaks to us after someone passes through our hands to the infinite universe. Stardust has its own plan once that happens. My crystal ball would not have said, “Greta’s flowers on the screened in back porch”, if I had one and pleaded with it soon after her death. Energy finds a way through.

I suppose we can find meaning in anything, if I was to stand on a sceptical soapbox here. Honestly, Greta loved daisies, anyway. I think any memory of her, by any means, is spectacular. On that I stand. Her gift to me was a different way of thinking. An openness to newness, as I like to say.

In light of her and the season, she will never be “too much” or not enough. I will always want one more moment that shall never be. Her colors will never fade and the water in which her spirit rests is eternally clear. For now, frail flowers continue to gift quiet words to me. At the time when these are to be discarded, Greta will give me rest in my words … and peace beyond the holiday.

Until then, I will sit here. Quiet words bounce across from my right. Strange? Perhaps.. No more odd than two occupants with nothing to do during a simple holiday. A father and son.

We miss her. Dad in his way. I look over to my right to miss her my way. Two days before Christmas. What a wonderful gift to remember and open every day.

Thank you, Greta.

Universal Elegance

Her words are soft and metronomically soothing. I found them only a few months ago while rhythmically scrolling through many pleasant social media symphony scores. An orchestra of players, not unlike myself, tune in frequently to hear her directions from the positive podium on which she stands. She wields a gentile three-minute baton held between words carefully chosen for us. Many watch … anticipating a helpful, calming, pre-dawn urge to help us move forward.

Among them, I sit. A player in this openly orchestral life full of challenges, I now exist. Embedded with an out-of-tune mental attitude at times and distracted by standmates who, possibly, are tired and strung-out as well, I sit every day waiting for her words. Mezzo-pianistic phraseology I so appreciate … facilitating body, mind, and spirit healing.

Enter stage left Maestro Michelle Walker, a conductor of energy. She represents what is right in the world by helping us center ourselves when all curtains want to fall awkwardly and untimely on our well practiced, planned performances. We thought we had the lighting correct. Maybe this day, shadows of doubt and unease hover about? Our experiences and training ushered us into the very seat in which we nudgefully nestle, but life had other plans. Alas, the moment, right?

… I sit. Another opus begins. I, along with my unknown instru-mentalists, wait for the downbeat – a hearty, intuitive “Good Morning, everyone!”. It begins. Waves of words waft across an invisible space between my phone and ears. Music for my soul. I know the enjoyment must be shared as well among my peers. For I am aware of energy when it occurs …

…and there’s nothing I know other than what I do know. Most of the gray globule matter floating around inside my skull contains energy committed to the connection between music dots on the staff and piano keys. I do, however, venture into the fascinating world of quantum mechanics at times. General relativity finds a black hole for my interest as well. Currently, I am reading, “The Elegant Universe” -authored by Brian Greene – which puts me smack in the company of quarks, electrons, atoms, string theory, and a quest for the Ultimate Theory. Einstein has a presence throughout, as does a continual nagging at my lesser intelligent conscious state of being. (Geesh, there are some really bright folk out there.)

Why am I on a quest to learn about the “Theory of Everything?”. I feel empowered to do so.

The “Theory of Everything” is an attempt to bridge the gap between the hugeness of space and the teeniness of the microworld. As Einstein would understand it to be (as mentioned in the Preface of Brian’s book): “a theory capable of describing nature’s forces within a single, all-encompassing, coherent framework.

So many scientists, et al, are on this path. They are edging closer to finding an answer. I will join them, marginally of course. Not wanting to give up pizza eating time, or moments watching football, will trump any dig-deep time-space continuum, gravity-bending, search throughs. Beethoven and Chopin require energy of mine before snarky quarks and pesky protons.

This is why Michelle is important. She takes the infinitely confusing space in our lives and says, “Hey, you are running around a lot these days, focusing on all those large life issues. Maybe stop and look at some smaller, wholesome, really good things going on today. Energy is good. Breathe. Take in your problems, perhaps, but don’t let them weigh you down…”

There is balance in the universe. An elegant lesson is to understand every problem can be broken down and pass through us like a little neutrino if we look at it that way. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not!

The balance is in how we think about it, not in how it actually comes to pass. This is the beauty of her words. They are words. Controlled, energetic words meant to inspire thought and action going forward – empowering us to move, to engage the energy if we so choose.

It truly IS an elegant universe; not only beyond the stars, but also inside ourselves. We have a fascinating body, mind, and spirit that has a limited time here – on a home planet that will spin us off into unknown space and eternal time once the final dispatch is sent for us.

Until then, we must do the best we can. Sitting where we are on this stage while reading what we must, loving those who we fold into our lives, eyeing up that which is pleasing and accepting our losses along the way, we look for guidance. In this ever-altering world of out-of-tune players, few stand out ahead to guide us with truth, peaceful energy, and three minutes of day-starting inspiration.

Brian Greene and Einstein may have a head start on string theory and an answer to what is at the core of “everything”, but I doubt they know how valuable Michelle Walker is to the Universe. Well, at least to the universe as I know it to be – a wonderful stage full of performers struggling with life’s problems, but still holding on to their inspired instruments and dreams.

A place where those few words tapping lightly on the conductor’s stand, to start a day’s symphony of beautiful music, mean the world to all listening.

Drawn to a Gift


What I wrote in haste on Facebook – a little over a week ago – didn’t do justice to his talent. There were twenty words, followed by a three word tag line: “Do your gift”. The artwork I received from Trent sits on a shelf nine feet behind where I now sit quietly typing away on my desktop. My virtual canvas is eerily opposite, in all aspects, from this comically amusing predator – otherwise known as a “Verbose Vulture”. I am currently in a dreary, rainy outside December’s day basement office, not in my car during a sunny day as I was nine days ago enjoying this beautiful sketch from a delightful soul.

It was a very gratifying mail moment at the post office when I saw my order arrived. Only a few weeks earlier, I watched Trent turn lines and curves into magical, mythical, black and white, two-dimensional walk-abouts on paper. These creatures with normal heads and normal bodies, but disconnected connections, lived once in the imaginations of Trent’s fans. Into little strips of paper these requests were made: rabbit head on a squirrel’s body, perhaps an elephant holding a balloon while standing on a mouse? Sometimes, simple, wonderful trampoline animals that started his bounce toward international fame. I would estimate thousands of requested combinations filtered through Trent’s talented brain, into a sharpie, then onto a blank, small paper canvas by the time I visited his site.

On the website, I found an amazing world of creativity. His expansive works aren’t contained to just a bucket of one-minute sketch requests from fans. I enjoyed perusing over his “Motley Menagerie” and “View of the Zoo” coloring books that not only would fill in the lines of some cool animals, but also could color your world with some fun and enjoyment as well.

There was apparel for sale on-line confirming a life of “Different not Less”, “No Limits”, and “Drawn to be Different” as a way to say, “You know what? I’m me … and that’s ok”. Not such a bad thing to be reminded that we are all remarkably unique. One-of-a kind. Special. as he is formally known. I would like to call him, instead, a friend with the sharpies. He is someone who is drawn to a gift.

This is what I see when glancing back at that vulture over my shoulder. He sits beside a few sketches I’ve had in the family for a while. Some looking back at me I’ve dabbled in myself – and others from a very talented nephew who has significantly outdrawn his uncle. Silently off to my left at the moment, however, is my piano. I challenge my nephew to a duel – anytime. His pens and pencils against my Chopin and we’ll see who wins.

It would be a cackle to the finish because both he and I would understand what Trent recognizes. If you are doing your gift – regardless who is around – that gift returns a joy multi-fold back to you. The bonus is an aura given off to everyone else who may happen to be around … be it right by your side, or through cables, airwaves, or wires miles away. I saw this in Trent’s smile that very first time his pen melted into the paper.

I know that feeling. I know that feeling when one finger softens into a key to start a Mozart Fantasia or Chopin Nocturne. I know the joy of producing something out of nothing. Hearing, or seeing an idea come to life – from nothing, something – is, well, fantastic.

I read Trent’s story. It is unique and different from mine … and yours, perhaps. Of course, it is. He is autistic. If you have a chance, click on the above link. I love the words they wrote: ” … (We) want to encourage families to help their children achieve their full potential, educate communities on the important role individuals of all skill and ability levels play, and inspire everyone to discover and use their own talents.”

Honestly, all I needed to do is cut and paste that quote. Thirty-seven words of theirs almost said everything I wanted to say here. Almost.

That quote is missing what pegged my heart from the very beginning.

I sat here and asked myself, what could be the exact expression to park my feelings in the perfect space where Trent’s art first appeared prior to that sunny day? What words best describe his gift that drew me in to his world before I ever opened the package?

Revisiting the site, I found their words … their phrase: “THE EMOTION IN HIS ART IS UNMISTAKABLE.”

There it was … all in CAPS. Perfect.

It was Trent’s happiness and joy in doing his gift. Pulling me in was just the simple act of a twenty-four year old man with autism drawing fun-loving fantasticals with a sharpie marker, requested slivers of paper, small paper canvases, a desk, and abounding cheerfulness. No more complicated than that.

Looking closer at the picture above, I see the eyes of my friendly vulture looking directly at me. He’s smiling. He sees in me what I need to re-acknowledge in myself. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder to recognize some gifts in my life and enjoy the experience of them in my life.

This is solely an extension – a halo effect, if you will – from Trent. I extend the same to you. Live your gift. Do your gift. Your emotion in what you do will be unmistakable and, perhaps, twenty words will be enough to describe your fantastic journey and influence on someone else’s life.

For me, twenty wasn’t for Trent. I had to do more. His story was too important not to share. We need reminders. We need “Verbose Vultures” looking over our shoulders – even during dreary December days.

Hart-felt Thanks

Hollidaysburg Junior High Doug Rhodes Photo

It’s a steady right turn off Route 36 south from Altoona just past the YMCA. I’ve done it thousands of times. All of us locals have. We’ve soothed our way past Hewit Street to the north, passing the “Y”, to drive past the junior high. Beside Hart Street it sits with extended splendor in both daylight, or under night starlight with bright artificial gleaming. Always a sight. Always a memory passing through my mind.

In that building were awesome band rehearsals, fun math classes, classrooms converted to temporary art rooms full of goofy shaped clay bowls, a woodshop where crooked sanded towel racks were assembled, and silly pasty white uniformed, skinny legged boy-gym experiences including lingering emotional and physical bruises from stupid, stinging dodge ball games. An early morning cafeteria provided a sit-down place for me to learn a list of prepositions as I waited for a first bell’s permission to enter one of many hallways. Classmates drizzled in, some by pairs, many by bus.

Few would say I had the good fortune to walk from one block away as it allowed for extra sleep-in time. This wasn’t always the case. That early sunrise cafeteria year in the junior high was a drop-off, sixth-grade, scoot-as-scoot can group of days. Dad was the consummate, arrive early, beat the sun up, senior high teacher whose perfect plan was to drop-off not only me, but also an older sister. We weathered the drive from a few miles out town for our sixth and seventh grade years. He found his way over to his school, we sat in ours. This school. This one.

So many years ago. Countless memories cross my mind as I write a thankful note here – in the basement of a house dad purchased during the summer between my sixth and seventh grade years. This is a place barely a block away from a junior high where I can’t escape some “not so good” memories, but mostly fond ones. Notably, a bush outside the older gym where I was motivated to first kiss a girl. I sit here thinking over hallways where books ended up on cold, tile floors and I ended up in the Principal’s office defending my retaliatory actions from bullies who pushed me too far during recess.

Awkward years for all of us.

I have to stop and say, “Thanks”. After all, it is the day, right?

This is a remarkable building. Up until the early 1970’s, it was the Hollidaysburg Senior High. In my lifetime, I’ve only known it to be the junior high – a building with a gyms at either end, and a band room immediately inside a slightly curved, multi-door entrance. All of the physical bricks and mortar, labs, cafeteria trays, dungeon-like rooms in the far hallway, music stands, and stuff inside don’t make it remarkable, however. Those are reserved as vehicles for memories to come as the current inhabitants belly up to their lockers. Years from now, teenage roadsters, who now drive on the educational highways inside, will use those as emotional rest stops … reliving either a pleasant past, or torturous teenage time in their life.

It’s not a perfect building. As a structure standing as a part of anyone’s life who spent a few years sitting in uncomfortable seats, walking on hard, uneven floors, or “exercising” on creaky wooden slats in the old gym, it isn’t going to excite the annals of educational history museums. Decades ago, there were the usual cafeteria table colors, locker rooms of blandness personified, and uniformity with every left and right step taken when I – as a wanderer of sorts – bounced from room to room wondering if tenth grade would ever arrive. A sophomore September move to the senior high was highly anticipated.

I say, “thanks”, to this not-so-perfect building today: A place steps away from where I am, now. A part of my past I cannot erase. A site where good and bad happened. A site of sadness, happiness, transition, and confusion. A stop-by during a November errand-run when everything else seemed more important, but wasn’t.

This, to me, is what Thanksgiving, 2021 looks like … and our beautiful junior high isn’t just a building in my life. It’s all the special people who still stand with me in both daylight, or under night starlight with their bright light gleaming. They are only steps away from where I am now and will help at a moment’s notice. I have friends and relatives who are part of my past and present, with good and bad experiences of course, who are always helpful … always kind, always genuine. Many have been with me in the hallways of transition and confusion without the urge to punch books out from under my arms. Being supported, in life’s school, is the greatest “thanks” that be can offered by me this year.

I know you have a lot to be thankful for this day. Be you … and give thanks for all you have or can give. It is, certainly, a very individual day for all of us.

I will pass by this school many, many times on my way back out toward Route 36. Even though the address for our junior high is, officially, 1000 Hewit Street, I offer my Hart-felt thanks to this building. For it is on that street I found my thankfulness last night. A fourteen-year old Honda – with a significantly older occupant – pulled over and ran idle for a few minutes. Inside, a very grateful man turned off his car’s headlights and openly considered a beautiful eighty-four years old steady brick building parked forever by his side. No walkers strode by on the sidewalk. No cars passed. The minutes were quiet.

Today is Thanksgiving. My building isn’t perfect, neither is my past.

Pull over, sit for a few minutes with family and friends today – if you are able – and recognize their transitions, confusions, “goods and bads”, pasts and presents. I suspect they know yours and still love, respect, and guide you along.

The cafeteria sits empty today. There are no early young boy and sister thoughts, or prepositional phrases being considered for the day’s lessons. Over the next few days, hallways will be quiet, rooms have only the hum of really old heating systems kicking on – filling desk spaces with invisible warmth. Perhaps a teacher, or two, will enter to prepare something ahead for the following week. This building, for the most part, will remain empty.

… Physically empty, but filling hearts with memories. Some good, some not. I am thankful for all of it. This is today, 2021. A Hart-felt thanks to everyone in my life.

… and to all, a Happy Thanksgiving.

Greta & The Dark Trees

Photo courtesy of a friend who lives in N.Y.C.

I met her once. A stranger to start, a friend at the end. It was during Greta’s final get-together – that wonderful Sunday afternoon surprise when so many stopped by to see tears and smiles find their way over grateful cheeks.

She came to see a friend. A musically connected friend to whom so many memories of a dad were embedded into a jazz-filled room from their past. Her dad and Greta bent rhythms and sounds into sculptures of lasting remember-whens.

Not just music. Included in these times was a picture. To identify it as a “picture” does no justice to the artwork. To my understanding, an original piece hung in the studio where Greta and a special dad recorded. This was a large, Greta original. As unique as she was:

This was an enlarged engraving she did of an old family photograph. Not surprising to me, it was exceptionally well done … in as much as my pianistic eyes could determine.

My new friend rediscovered this gem after days of dutiful praying and diligent perseverence. She wasn’t going to be denied. Knowing Greta’s deeply held respect for her family, she found it behind, below, and beside other of life’s set-asides. With all the possibilities where this art could have been set aside, she held the hands of memories that day as a small gate opened upon her arrival.

And Greta’s life – with all it’s problems and challenges at that moment – was embraced by those memories as well.

A New York friend. A connection to Greta. Someone I met once. A stranger to start, a friend at the end.

She left an hour or so after arriving and I’ve kept in touch since then, infrequently. In the meantime, Greta passed on to etch her way into our sad, but grateful hearts. All of us are so grateful to have loved someone so special. We lost someone dear to us. For me, I have an acquaintance-connection otherwise not possible if not for Greta.

When I saw her post pictures of Central Park recently, my mind immediately swung back to that small metal gate. An entrance to a Sunday afternoon when some – who were strangers to me – became friends … thanks, in no small way, to Greta’s heart full of sunshine through the dark trees in her life.

That is this picture. A central park-place for all of us to remember what life can be. In the middle of really stupid stuff – even terminal cancer – there can be a little sunshine. In my case, it’s been friends.

Your little sunshine doesn’t have to be friends, of course. Hopefully, dark trees in your way aren’t tumors from rare, terminal appendiceal cancer. Wherever you are sitting … whatever green, lush lawn finds your life struggles reclining upon, look for that little peek of sunshine glancing across the blades. It’s very likely a connection of some kind will be there for you.

If nothing else, a memory.

I’m glad I met her once. Her name? Silent here because she represents all those who have stepped forward from behind the dark trees of a brave, talented, artistic, beautiful life – into the central park-place where strangers are now friends…

…because Greta was truly an original. A one of a kind. Someone I am so glad I met once as well.

… And missed by all who knew her.